Fond memories of Haywards Heath war pigeon

Mick and Val botting with a photograph of Val's father and mother (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150330-153704008
Mick and Val botting with a photograph of Val's father and mother (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150330-153704008
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Val Botting, 73, was just a girl when she used to visit the loft at Mr Moon’s Gentlemen’s Outfitters - where pigeons like Commando were trained to carry messages across enemy lines during WW2.

And while her fond memories have dimmed over time, she was pleased to read in the Middy that the heroic pigeon was being honoured with its own blue plaque.

Husband Mick, 79, said: “My wife used to go up there and see, she saw all the pigeons in his loft.

“He would come home and tell us all about the way he trained them, it was a long time ago now!”

Val’s father, Bert Anscombe, worked at Mr Moon’s Gentlemen’s Outfitters.

Bert lost his leg during the First World War aged 21, so started a career as a tailor.

He was employed at Mr Moon’s for 30 years.

The blue plaque was unveiled on the wall of Madga’s on The Broadway, formerly Mr Moon’s building, on Friday to commemorate Commando’s actions.

Mick, who has lived in Haywards Heath since he was born, continued: “My wife Val was interested to hear of the plaque that has been erected on the wall of Mr Moon’s Gentlemen’s Outfitters.

“She often saw the heroic pigeons in Mr Moon’s loft when she visited.

“What a good idea to commemorate historic events in the town.

“So much of the history of Haywards Heath is being lost as we pull buildings down and erect modern flats in their places.”

Many years ago Mick wrote articles for the Mid Sussex Times about allotments.

Commando was awarded the PDSA Dickin Medal for his war efforts. 

Pigeons were a vital part of the war effort, used when radio communications were too dangerous.

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